Is anger getting in your way? You’ve always been told to control your anger. But, what should you do when your anger seems to control you?
Learn what to do when it seems impossible to keep your cool, and when to consider seeing a professional therapist to help with your anger.
Is Anger Normal?
Anger is a natural human emotion. It’s not inherently a “bad” emotion in itself.
Anger can motivate individuals or groups to make a change for the better: leave a toxic relationship, fight injustice, or advocate for human rights, to name a few.
However, if you find that you are getting angry more often, getting angry over minor inconveniences, or if you feel out of control when you are angry, you may need help from a therapist.
Left unchecked, anger can damage relationships, lead to problems at work, and even result in violence.
Uncontrollable anger can take a toll on your mental and physical health, too, contributing to anxiety and depression, heart problems, headaches, digestive issues, and more.
If a friend or loved one has suggested you might have a problem with anger, or if you feel like you’re losing control, it’s a good idea to take steps to put your anger back in its place.
Therapy can be an effective part of regaining control over anger.
Could an unresolved emotional issue from your past be contributing to your anger? Could you be suffering from an undiagnosed mental health condition such as intermittent explosive disorder or anxiety?
A therapist can help you identify the root cause of your anger. They can also help you create an anger management plan to help you overcome it.
If an underlying mental health condition is contributing to your struggle, a combination of medications and therapy may help you cope.
Anger Management Strategies
As part of therapy, a therapist will likely help you develop the right anger management tools to help you overcome your struggle with anger. You may find that certain lifestyle changes also make an impact on your ability to cope with life’s frustrations.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s harder to respond with patience to everyday inconveniences.
Maybe you’ve observed that when you’re running late for work, you get angrier about a driver cutting you off. Or maybe you’ve noticed that when you’ve got multiple deadlines looming, it’s easier to snap at the kids for bickering.
If this sounds like you, take a look at your responsibilities and see what you can take off your plate.
Can you ask your spouse to drive the kids to school for a few weeks? Can you take a break from some of your other responsibilities? Reducing your obligations can free up some headspace so that you can respond more appropriately to frustrations.
Get More Sleep
It’s not just an old wives’ tale.
Studies have shown a connection between sleep deprivation and anger. If your anger feels out of control, make sleep a top priority. The CDC recommends seven hours of sleep per night for adults.
For optimal sleep, remember to step away from the screen 30-60 minutes before you hit the hay. Experts also recommend trying to go to bed and wake up at about the same time each day.
There is a reason that exercise tops every list for how to be your happiest and healthiest.
One of the many benefits of exercise is that it improves mood and self-control, two issues that go hand in hand with uncontrollable anger.
In an angry moment, going for a fast walk or jog can help release that surge of energy and adrenaline you get from anger. But making a point to exercise regularly also helps prevent mood fluctuations like anger from becoming so extreme in the first place.
So if you’re looking for tools you can use right away to help you get control of your anger, pick up a pair of sneakers and hit the gym.
When you experience anger, your body automatically produces a “fight or flight” response.
This natural, automatic physical reaction from your body was evolved to help your ancestors survive threats like attacks from hungry mountain lions.
Still, today, when you perceive a threat, such as a rude driver or an insult from a coworker, your body elicits that same physiological response.
Your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes shallow, and your body becomes focused solely on survival – on defending yourself. While the fight or flight response helped your ancestors fend off hungry predators, today it sends you lashing out uncontrollably toward bad drivers or cranky coworkers.
It spurs you into words or actions you later regret.
The good thing is that in addition to a fight or flight response, your body also comes programmed with a “relaxation response”, in which your body can counter those physical symptoms such as the increased heart rate and fast, shallow breathing.
Even better, you can intentionally activate your relaxation response to reverse your fight or flight response, and to help you calm down before you get yourself into trouble.
To activate your relaxation response, you can use breathing methods such as belly breathing.
When most people breathe, their chest rises and falls, and their belly remains still.
It’s better, though, to breathe so that your belly inflates and deflates with each breath and your chest remains still. This is called “belly breathing”.
Belly breathing is a powerful tool to elicit your body’s relaxation response and quiet your body’s fight or flight reaction.
To belly breathe, try placing one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Imagine your belly is like a balloon, and each time you inhale, you want to inflate the belly balloon. When you exhale, deflate the belly. Meanwhile, try to keep your chest still so that your breathing is really taking place in the belly.
It takes practice, but that practice pays off. You can do belly breathing daily to reduce your overall feelings of stress. You can also implement belly breathing in times of anger to calm down.
Experiencing uncontrollable anger can feel frightening and stressful. Anger can impact your mental and physical health and can harm relationships with friends, family, and coworkers.
But you can overcome your anger. If you’re ready to make a change, consider seeing a therapist. A therapist can help you find the right anger management tools, medications, or lifestyle changes to find peace.